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Senate Expected to Vote on 21st Century Cures Act in September

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Senate will not vote on its companion to the sweeping House-backed biomedical research funding bill known as the 21st Century Cures Act before its summer recess, but may do so in September, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said on Monday.

"Rarely do we have such an opportunity … [The bill] includes support for the President's Precision Medicine initiative and the Vice President's Cancer Moonshot," he said in a statement. "This could be the most important legislation Congress passes this year, and there's no excuse for not finishing our work in September." 

A year ago, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act, which would increase National Institutes of Health funding by $10 billion over five years; calls for the creation of a special fund for basic, translational, and clinical research at the NIH; and would implement changes to the US Food and Drug Administration approval process.

The Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) instead opted for a piecemeal approach to the act, voting on separate narrower bills related to different aspects of the act such as electronic health records and treatments for rare diseases. 

In April, the HELP committee completed the final of three markups to the legislation, passing a total of 19 bills. Notably, it did not vote on the issue of funding for the National Institutes of Health.

In June, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee proposed a $2 billion increase for the NIH in fiscal 2017 to $34 billion. A month later, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released a bill calling for a $1.25 billion bump in NIH funding for next year.